Chrysanthemums and carnations
"I asked you to wear a pink chrysanthemum. So I could recognize you, you know."
"I am wearing a pink chrysanthemum. I should have imagined that that was a fact that the most casual could hardly have overlooked."
"That thing?" The other gazed disparagingly at the floral decoration. "I thought it was some kind of cabbage. I meant one of those little what-d'you-may-call-its that people wear in their button-holes."
"Carnation! That's right."
Psmith removed the chrysanthemum and dropped it behind the chair. He looked at his companion reproachfully.
"If you had studied botany at school, comrade," he said "much misery might have been averted. I cannot begin to tell you the spiritual agony I suffered, trailing through the metropolis behind that shrub."
Leave it to Psmith PG Wodehouse
I recall the above passage quite often these days, as I go off to meet my online friends. When we meet strangers, even if they are people we have corresponded with and read the blogs of, there are some arrangements to be made; the venue, for instance, the time and so on. We exchange phone numbers.
(To digress a bit, we all think our cell phone numbers are something we offer to a select few people. I once remarked snootily to a friend that not many people have mine, and was embarrassed as the said phone rang, with a call from SBI Card asking if I wanted to avail of the easy instalments facility, IFB reminding me that my maintenance contract will expire soon, and text messages from Kingfisher Airlines about a ticket, Airtel about a great offer…all during the couple of hours my friend and I were together. I will just say that while he sniggered, he didn't say anything, but he is a sweetiepie. Our numbers are out there, however fondly we imagine them to be private and available only to a few.)
I've noticed that when I go to meet friends I've made online, men tend to worry about finding the person at the venue. They ask for a picture so they can recognise the friend; they try to plan ahead.
"I will be wearing a carnation."
Or the equivalent. A blue T-shirt, or a green shirt. I will be carrying James Joyce, I will be doing a crossword or I will be sitting at the corner table. I've heard all these and more; from my men friends, of course.
I wonder why men worry about finding the person they are going to meet. Is it a worry that they may look silly scrutinising every person who walks in? But women, my online friends at least, just know they will find each other. We exchange phone numbers to coordinate or call if we are delayed, but we never worry that we may not recognise each other. My women friends and I just decide on a place and go there, perfectly confident that we will find each other.
When Rimi, Urmi and I met, we just fixed the venue. We didn't have to tell each other what we'd be wearing or carrying to aid recognition. It was the same when Rimi and I met Priya. We'd seen her picture, of course, but it was a misleading thing as it did her no justice. But we'd have known her, no worries.
So when my date suggested that a bookshop sounded a little tricky, what with so many aisles and browsers, I was amused. It's not as though two middle-aged people looking for each other will have trouble finding each other, I said, and added that the coffee shop might cut down the area of search.
Less than two weeks after I met Arka (read this poem of his), the only male buddy who didn't fret about recognising me, I was on a blind date again. But this was different. I wasn't meeting a buddy or a blogger. I was meeting a reader. The reader had written asking if it was bad blog etiquette to ask for a meeting with the blogger as we both lived in the same city. Curiosity works both ways, I'd replied, saying that I'd be glad to meet a reader who seemed to be trawling extensively through my blog archives.
So, there I was, chatting with the staff, both good friends of mine. We were discussing fantasy, authors, books to be bought for Eloor, the library they'd both worked for before joining Crossword Bookstore, and more, when I caught sight of a lady entering the shop. She didn't glance at the display of the new arrivals or stop at the shelves but went straight up to the next floor.
I concluded my chat and made my way upstairs. There she was, sitting down at a table for two at the coffee shop.
"Missus Tee?" I said just as she said "Missus Em?" at the same time. We beamed hugely at each other and hugged. We hadn't met before, had exchanged only a few mails. But we had no trouble finding each other, of course.